By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Fri. Dec. 15, 2023: With no end in sight to the war on Palestine, and with over 17,000 civilians’ dead and attacks rising in the West Bank, the Joe Biden administration is finally taking a tough stance against some Israelis since it gave the country the green light to go after Hamas following the Oct. 7th attack.

The US has informed Israel that it will implement visa bans on Israeli extremist settlers involved in violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank. This decision was reportedly communicated by a senior State Department official, according to the UK Guardian.

During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly conveyed that the United States would take action against an undisclosed number of individuals.

Israeli citizens meeting the criteria for the ban and holding US visas will receive notifications regarding the nullification of their visas. Individuals who do not possess a visa and apply for one will have their applications denied. While the primary focus of the policy is not on Palestinians, those found to have engaged in violent acts will likewise encounter these consequences.

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A man tends to a fire for his family outside of their damaged home in Jenin following a muilti-day raid in the city by members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that left over 10 residents dead and wounded on December 14, 2023 in Jenin, Palestine. The West Bank city, a center of resistance to Israel, has been raided frequently in recent years resulting in many deaths of both civilians and fighters. Israel’s war against Hamas that was sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks has also made life more volatile in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli forces here have stepped up raids on alleged militants, police have clashed with protesters, and there has been a rise in violent attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers. Last month, Hamas also claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting in Jerusalem by two brothers from the eastern part of the city. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Additionally, blacklisted settlers will be rendered ineligible for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, a visa waiver program introduced by US President Biden for Israelis in September. The ban may also apply to immediate family members of settlers who engage in violence.

It is unclear how many people the ban would cover, but since the October 7th Hamas attacks in southern Israel, an average of seven cases a day of settler violence against Palestinians have been reported in the West Bank, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Before October 7th, there were an average of three cases a day in 2023.

The US State Department said it could affect “dozens” of settlers and their families although did not give a more accurate number or identify anyone the ban would target due to confidentiality rules.

Estimates suggested that at least 200,000 Israeli-American dual nationals live in Israel. Overall, Israel has more than 700,000 settlers spread across 150 government-authorized settlements and 128 unauthorized outposts around the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In 2015, an Oxford University professor’s research showed that 60,000 of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank also held US passports. It is unclear how much that number has changed over the past eight years.

Since Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israelis have built settlements that most countries deem illegal. Israel rejects such characterizations on the grounds that it has historical ties to the land.

The West Bank, a territory where Palestinians seek statehood, has witnessed a surge in violence in recent months, partly due to the expansion of Jewish settlements and a long-standing impasse in US-sponsored peace efforts. This violence reached a more than 15-year high earlier this year and escalated further following Israel’s military response to an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7th, which resulted in the deadliest day of terror in Israel’s history.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concern over the escalating violence in the West Bank and called for it to cease. President Joe Biden, in a November 18th op-ed in The Washington Post, threatened to take action against those responsible for extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, including the issuance of visa bans.

An Israeli government spokesman, Eylon Levy, did not comment specifically on the visa bans but affirmed Israel’s condemnation of vigilantism, hooliganism, and individuals taking the law into their own hands. Many of Israel’s far-right politicians, however, have signaled support for settler activities, and accountability of such events is rare and often overseen by the Israeli military.

The US State Department official, speaking anonymously to the UK Guardian, emphasized Washington’s desire for Israel to prosecute the perpetrators but noted that such steps had not yet been taken. The visa bans are expected to be imposed in the coming weeks.

The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com, the Black Immigrant Daily News.

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